When you’ve invested in a playset for your children, you want to protect this investment for as long as possible. If you’re unsure of how to care for your playset correctly, we’ve compiled useful tips to help you keep the damaging effects of the elements at bay.

In this article, we will inform you of why maintaining your playset is essential. We will also give you the information needed to properly clean your playset and tell you how to care for your playset even during the winter season.

Additionally, in case you’re unaware, different materials require different maintenance techniques, and you should also have different expectations of how they’ll behave under frequent use. Use this guide to help you better prepare for the seasons and guarantee that your children can benefit from its longevity.

Why Maintaining Your Playset is Important 

There are a few good reasons to maintain the condition of your playset, most important of which is to protect your children and your investment. A quality playset should be long-lasting and something that little ones can play on for years to come. However, this is only possible if you perform regular maintenance throughout the year. Doing so will keep your playset in peak condition and ensure the safety of the set for your family.

Here are the top reasons why you shouldn’t neglect your playset after you make the purchase.

Early Problem Detection: Over time, your playset will naturally incur damage from regular use and or from the wear and tear that weather can cause. Keeping an eye on your playset will allow you to detect minor problems early on before they balloon into something more severe and costly.

Injury Prevention: Consistent upkeep of your playset will do wonders in the way of injury prevention. By keeping your playset up to snuff and sturdy, you can have confidence knowing that your children can play on it with no risk of injury due to equipment failure.
Improved Appearance: Continued maintenance on your playset means that you can have your set looking brand new for all long as possible. You can feel proud knowing that your playset is in excellent condition.

Maintaining the Wood for Wooden Playsets 

Further along in the article, we’ll break down the differences between the different wood materials that can be used for a playset. In the meantime, here’s a step-by-step guide to showing particular attention to the wood on the playset. This is, after all, the entire infrastructure and should be maintained regularly to avoid incidents.

Thorough Inspection 

Maintaining the wood on your playset begins with giving it a thorough inspection. You must pay special attention to the screws, bolts, chains, cables, roofing, and hinges. You want to make sure that none of these parts are rusting or fraying; if they are, then you’ll need to find replacements immediately. 

Remember, your children’s safety is the priority, and replacing these parts will ensure that they can play on the set without the worry of injury. Furthermore, check for loose screws and bolts and tighten them consistently. Lastly, examine the wood for any signs of mild splintering and consider sanding the affected areas if necessary.

Clean Mildew and Dirt From the Playset

You want to maintain the aesthetic of your playset, and you can do this by simply cleaning any dirt or mildew that you may see. Mildew can be quite a pesky thing to deal with, especially when it’s growing out of control and taking over your beautiful playset. To prevent this from happening, you can take some mild soap with a hose or even deck cleaner to rinse and wipe your playset thoroughly.

Routinely Apply Fresh Stain and Sealant

You need to apply sealant and fresh stain at the appropriate times. We recommend restaining your playset every 2-3 years, depending on the severity of your weather conditions and the kind of wood that you have. These two actions will keep your wooden playset looking fresh and shiny instead of dull and worn. On the other hand, resealing the wood on your playset should be done more frequently—once every 1-2 years. Pretty straightforward, doesn’t have to be time-consuming or perfectly done, but stain every couple years and seal every year for the absolute best results.

We really like Thompson’s WaterSeal for any cedar swing set seal jobs, it’s an all-in-one solution for sealing every year.

Ready Seal is also a good stain option and comes in a few different colors to choose from.

If you have more specific questions for your playset in particular, simply contact your manufacturer, and they will inform you of the proper ways to maintain the wood on your playset.

Winterizing Your Playset

We’re sure you’ve taken the time to consider how the cold temperatures will affect your playset. Harsh winters can reduce the life of the playset if the proper measures aren’t taken to combat the adverse effects that winter can have on materials such as wood, metal, plastic, and more. Avoid incurring unnecessary damage to your playset by following these simple steps.

Remove Plastic Components

Cold weather is not kind to plastic, and it can make plastic components of the playset brittle and more susceptible to breaking or snapping. For this reason, it is imperative to remove all plastic parts from the playset and move them indoors away from the frigid cold. Additionally, it would help if you considered temporarily uninstalling steering wheels, swing seats, slide bars, and any other accessories and storing them away during the winter season.

Inspect Your Playset in the Spring

It is crucial to inspect your playset in the Spring, right after the winter months, and right before you begin to use it. As previously mentioned, the winter is notorious for compromising the safety of playsets by eroding or negatively affecting wood and plastic. 

Therefore, examine your playset with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that there aren’t any safety hazards present. Here are some components of the playset that you will want to pay special attention to: plastic parts, small hardware, and swing chains.

Furthermore, at the beginning of Spring, check all bolts and screws for rust, damage, or looseness.

How to Properly Clean Your Playset

After purchasing your playset, it is very easy to get so caught up in using it that you neglect to clean it. A dirty playset is something that you do not want to deal with, mainly because those who use the playset will track more dirt into the house from it, and it can serve as a haven for germs to multiply. So as you can imagine, properly cleaning your playset is vital for the health of your children and your family overall. Below is the proper way to clean your playset.

Firstly, get some latex gloves and a garden hose along with a bucket. To keep the cleaning project strictly outside, you will use the garden hose as your additional water source. After filling the bucket with warm water, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of natural dishwashing liquid into the water. 

The amount of dish liquid you use will be dependent on the size of the bucket and the concentration of the liquid. You want your solution to be soapy and bubbly. Also, be sure that your dish liquid is non-toxic, all-natural, and biodegradable.

This kind of dish liquid should be suitable for the plants growing in your backyard, but you can double-check with a garden center to ensure that they won’t be harmed if it’s still a concern.

Step two is to take a soft-bristled brush and dip it into the solution you’ve made. Take the brush and scrub the entire surface of your playset. Scrub the playset by using firm pressure and scrubbing in a circular motion. Hone in on germ-riddled spots such as places where handprints are plentiful and where bird droppings and mildew are present.

Be sure to clean, rinse, and re-dip your brush frequently to keep it sufficiently soapy. If the water becomes too dirty, empty the bucket, make a new solution, and continue cleaning.

Third, take your garden hose and rinse your entire playset with water. Give the playset time to completely air dry before allowing your children to play on it.

Finally, repeat this cleaning process on a monthly basis, depending on playset use. At a minimum, we recommend cleaning your set at least once during every season. Keeping it clean also helps keep insects and pests off your swing set.

How to Keep the Playset Ground Cover Maintained 

There are various materials that your ground cover can be composed of. Below is a short list of tips for each type that will hopefully help you to maintain the space around your playset as well. 

Pea Gravel

You must rake or shovel pea gravel into areas that will be most beneficial. Be sure that the gravel hasn’t broken down too much. When it becomes too fine, the gravel begins to lose its effectiveness.

Sand

Consistently rake the sand into the most beneficial areas of the playset. Additionally, you’ll have to replace the sand to keep it clean and plentiful in the vicinity of the playset. Speaking of sand, if you have a sandbox, make sure to read our guide on sandbox maintenance too.

Wood Mulch

Like sand, mulch has to be raked often into the most crucial areas. Unfortunately, the mulch will need to be replaced each year. Therefore, there will be additional work for you to do come springtime.

Poured Rubber or Rubber Tiles

Rubber tiles will need some occasional cleaning. Besides cleaning, this surface requires very little care. Poured rubber can last upwards of a decade or more on average.

Grass

Grass has to be cared for much like the rest of your lawn. This means that watering, trimming, fertilizing, and cutting are all necessary. It isn’t the safest ground cover as it gets torn up quickly. Replace grass in high traffic areas to continue enjoying the benefits of a lush, soft surrounding for your playset.

Turf

Turf is very low maintenance and only has to be washed from time to time. The turf may need minor repairs if it’s damaged.

Poured Concrete

Little maintenance is needed for concrete. This material is highly durable, and you will only have to clean it if necessary. However, it isn’t recommended and forgiving when our little ones have a tumble.

Equipment Quality and Maintenance Needs for Cheap Playsets vs. Well-Made Playsets

Cheap playsets are tempting to buy because of their affordable prices. However, there are significant drawbacks to purchasing a cheap playset. Because these more economic playsets are often made in China, they’re constructed with a weaker kind of wood, Chinese Cedar. This type of wood doesn’t last as long as American Cedar variations such as Redwood Cedar or Northern White Cedar.

For example, domestic Cedarwood is more durable and can support more weight than the overseas version. The cost of the playset will be cheaper because the wood that it’s made from has a shorter life expectancy after maturation (15-20 years).

So while you can perform all of the wood fortifying techniques such as staining and sealing to both kinds of playsets, be aware that the cheaper playset will wear down sooner despite your efforts because the wood is simply weaker.

You can read more about wood types in our breakdown of the best wood for swing sets.

Final Checklist

Playset maintenance is essential to the safety of the children that are going to be playing on it. Here is our final playset maintenance checklist for all the odds and ends that you need to check for in addition to the tips above for cleaning and maintenance.

Climbers and Ladders

  • There shouldn’t be any rungs missing
  • Check for signs of slipping, loose, or cracked rungs
  • Eliminate signs of rust and corrosion
  • Secure anchors and supports
  • Account for all screws, bolts, or nuts
  • Inspect to see if all enclosures are intact

Spinners and Bouncers

  • No exposed mechanisms that move
  • Moving parts are well-lubricated  
  • Speed regulars are proper and intact
  • Make sure there aren’t any screws or bolts missing

Infrastructure

  • The decks, towers, walkways, and bridges, are intact
  • No cracks, breaks of warping
  • No broken, corroded, or rusted parts
  • Check for crush and pinch points as a result of exposed pieces

Swing Area

  • All of the “S” hooks need to be closed and securely attached to the cross beams
  • Swing chains are not worn out at the point of connection
  • There shouldn’t  be any corrosion or rust on the seats or the swing chains
  • Rubber sleeves on tire swings aren’t worn in excess

Scheduled Wood Treatment

  • Re-STAIN every 2-3 years, preferably at the end of the outdoor play season
  • Re-SEAL every 1-2 years, preferably at the beginning of the outdoor play season
  • Wash and Rinse with soapy water and a brush every month during the outdoor play season

Questions about playset maintenance? Let us know!

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